Tag Archives: energy innovations

Inexpensive materials for high-performance batteries of the future

A new study has shown for the first time how inexpensive materials can be used in high-performance batteries of the future.

The study, published last week in ACS Energy Letters, is a collaboration between Monash University, the India Institute of Technology Bombay-Monash Research Academy, and Deakin University.

Scientists and engineers have been focused on finding a more sustainable way of using lithium batteries which rely on scarce resources and is challenging to produce on a large scale at affordable prices.

But now scientists have shown that using a ‘carbon cloth collector’ can improve the sulfur utilisation of batteries, which would make them more efficient.

“Batteries of the future are necessary because in various significant market areas they form a vital part of the transition away from fossil fuels,” said study author Professor Douglas MacFarlane, from the Monash University School of Chemistry.

“Integration of renewables into the grid is hampered by the variability of the supply, and battery storage either in the home or at the wind/solar farm is seen as a necessary, but currently very expensive, component of the system” he said.

The research was conducted through a highly innovative PhD program in the IITB-Monash Research Academy – a partnership between the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB), India and Monash University.

Deakin University, with expertise  in the  prototyping and scale up of the batteries, also played a key role in the study. The research is part of a longer term collaboration between Monash, Deakin and the ITTB funded through an Australia India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF) project aimed at developing affordable high-performance batteries.

“The most immediate application of these batteries in India could be in local transportation applications, for example in the Auto-Rickshaws that are extensively used in Asia as well as smaller electric vehicles (EVs),” said study author, Professor Maria Forsyth, from Deakin University.

“In Australia we could see such batteries powering EVs, and they could also be used for home battery storage,” she said.

The study describes outstanding performance for a high-energy density room-temperature sodium-sulfur (RT Na-S) battery, with the discovery that a simple chemical activation of a carbon cloth current collector (which researchers fill with a sulfur-based liquid electrolyte ) could allow  a Na-S battery to operate at near its theoretical voltage and deliver an energy density of just under 1kWh/kg of Sulfur.

The appeal of the Na-S battery is that the raw materials, sodium salts and sulfur are very commonplace and inexpensive.

The battery operates at room temperature and can be charged and discharged at reasonable rates, for example 1/2 an hour charging and discharging.

The carbon cloth is the key to the development. By activating it in a simple process it becomes a catalytic agent in the discharge process of the sulfur electrode, leading to a higher overall voltage and extended cycle life.

energy trading

CRC energy trading research leads to career success

The inspiration for Power Ledger stemmed from co-founder Jemma Green’s PhD on electricity market democratisation. Funded by the CRC for Low Carbon Living (CRCLCL), Dr Green designed a solar and battery system for apartments (the first of its kind in Australia) and an energy trading platform to allow peer-to-peer trading using blockchain.

This foray into destructive innovation led Dr Green to co-found Power Ledger, a platform designed to ease the global transition to low-carbon energy by decentralising energy and allowing ordinary people to become investors in renewable energy assets.

“Our technology uses blockchain to enable energy trading, energy asset financing and carbon markets,” explains Dr Green. “Our corporate mission is the democratisation of power and the delivery of low cost and low carbon energy markets.”

Main image: Chair & co-founder Dr Jemma Green in the PowerLedger office in Perth.

Power Ledger allows consumers to sell and trade electricity from a residential energy generation system using a blockchain environment. Renewable energy assets are tokenized so they become tradeable on the secondary market. “Everyday people can invest in and co-own these assets, whereas previously it had been the domain of institutional investors,” says Dr Green. 

This year, Power Ledger will launch their energy product: a grid connected battery and commercial solar farm. The company is also involved in issuing and trading on carbon credit and is currently working across four countries to tokenize carbon credit so it can be traded on the exchange.

Last year, Power Ledger was the winner of the Extreme Tech Challenge, and the team travelled to Las Vegas and Richard Branson’s Necker Island to pitch their business concept. Dr Green says the original CRC funding was a life-changing opportunity. “I’m enormously grateful for the risk the CRCLCL took investing in me. We’re a group of passionate experts in blockchain and technology at Power Ledger and with scaling and commercialisation, we hope to make a big difference to achieving the Paris climate goals.”

– Larissa Fedunik

Smart home design gets AccuRate

Smart home design gets AccuRate

There is a growing demand for energy efficient houses. Featured image © CSIRO, CT Image Technology. 

Smart home design gets AccuRate

Today, more than ever before, home owners are demanding cost-effective, sustainable comfort – and that means finding smarter ways to make home heating and cooling affordable.

Despite the rising cost of housing, Australians have remained undeterred from their dream of home ownership. But if committing to a mortgage and a home build isn’t scary enough these days, the costs of heating and cooling it certainly might be!

Yes, we are creatures of comfort, and although we love our sunburnt country – droughts and flooding rains and all – the many climate variables in this beautiful land can pose a challenge when it comes to maximising energy efficiency in the design of our homes.

So our clever energy scientists asked: What if we could find a way of to model how particular house designs respond to certain climates, and then, at minimum cost, tweak their energy efficiencies to suite?

And they did it!

Drawing on the decades of experience and research in house energy modelling upon which the Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) is based, the team came up with AccuRate – a smart software tool that can calculate a home’s annual heating and cooling energy requirements down to an hourly rate.

The benchmark simulation software can assess a home’s energy requirements in up to 69 different climatic zones in Australia and rate its comfort level based on its annual energy requirements for heating and cooling. Homes are rated according to a ‘0–10 stars’ system – the higher the stars the more comfortable and energy efficient the homes are.

AccuRate can model up to 50 living spaces and 99 zones within a home, and takes into consideration the impact of variables such as insulation, natural ventilation, air leakage, thermal mass, roof spaces, sub-floor spaces, skylights, horizontal reflective air gaps, windows and external shading structures like trees, fences and the neighbour’s house.

AccuRate compares well to similar programs in Europe and the US and is available commercially from Energy Inspection. It is the benchmark software set by the Australian Government DCCEE for compliance to the building code. By flipping or rotating buildings and apartments, the software allows a designer to explore how different orientations might maximise energy and comfort. Additional AccuRate modules test sustainability parameters outside of energy efficiency ratings like lighting and water usage.

AccuRate is just one of the way we are supporting Australia’s transition to a prosperous, secure and lower emissions energy future.

Want to learn more?

During November, thousands of Australians will experience the power of renewable energy when they they hop on our Infinity Swing – a giant eight-person swing that generates real renewable energy to power a stunning light and sound show. Find out about the Infinity Swing and our other top energy innovations here.

– Ali Green

This story was first published by CSIRO on 6 November 2015 as part of their energy focused Infinity Campaign. Read the original story here.